Nestlé Waters North America is being accused of illegally sourcing water from California’s San Bernardino National Forest, further contributing to the historic drought that has been devastating the region since 2012 and negatively affecting biodiversity in the area.
On Tuesday, environmental nonprofit The Story of Stuff Project, along with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Courage Campaign Institute, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service, claiming the federal agency has allowed Nestlé to pump water for its Arrowhead bottled water brand using a permit that expired in 1988. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, demands that the Forest Service put an end to operations transporting water from the forest’s Strawberry Canyon to a Nestlé bottling facility via a four-mile long pipeline.
“They are taking water from a national forest that desperately needs that water,” Story of Stuff Project’s executive director Michael O’Heaney told The Guardian. “The Forest Service is obligated by law to ensure the natural resources of the forest are protected.”
While U.S. Forest Service spokesman John Heil declined to comment on the lawsuit in a statement to USA Today, Nestlé has already addressed the accusations on its website, saying its permit “is one of hundreds awaiting renewal by the US Forest Service” and that “we can lawfully continue our operations pending the reissuance of our permit and that the provisions of our existing permit are still in force until the effective date of a new permit.”
The Story of Stuff Project’s lawsuit follows an investigation by The Desert Sun in March that first unearthed the expired permit Nestlé has been operating under for more than 20 years. In the aftermath of the story ,San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron said that addressing the expired water permit was a priority for the agency. Nestlé withdrew 25 million gallons of water from the forest in 2014 — an amount the company said was equivalent to that needed to water two golf courses over the course of a year.